- "Silkie" is also an alternative spelling for Selkie. Additionally, it refers to a breed of chicken and to a fictional spacegoing human-like species in A. E. van Vogt's novel The Silkie (1969) ISBN 0450012093.
Silkies are fictional ferret/cat people with exceptionally long, prehensile tails. They are genetically-engineered, their first generation decanted rather than born, but fertile so that subsequent generations may be born naturally.
Silkies are slender, graceful humanoids with feline and musteline traits. They have elongate torsos and necks, large eyes, and short muzzles. Although similar in stature to humans, sexual dimorphism is somewhat greater: males are taller, females smaller. Their hands have three fingers and a thumb, with claws that retract like a cat's. Early-design silkies have three toes on each foot; later designs have four.
The most striking attribute of silkies are their tails, the length of which is typically 150% of the bearer's height. The tail is muscular and prehensile, comparable in strength and cross-section to one of the bearer's legs. It terminates in three clawless opposable digits called "tailfingers", rarely seen as they're concealed within the abundant tail fur.
Silkies possess both short body fur and localized regions of longer "trim" tufting. The trim fur is usually a different color than the body fur, and occurs in a mane along the scalp, under the forearms, and along the back of the calves. The mane is often worn in a style mimicking human hair. The presence of forearm and calf tufts are the most reliable way to distinguish silkies from other species. The tailtips of male silkies are usually "flagged" with trim-colored fur.
Silkies have a wider array of body pigments than natural mammals; (anthocyanin in addition to eumelanin and pheomelanin). Their base or trim fur coloration may be nearly any shade except green, with a tendency to vibrant hues rather than neutral tones. Blue and violet colorations are not uncommon. Ventral countershading is typical; a broad dorsal stripe may occur.
Silkies were created by Ken Sample in illustrations dating back to at least 1981. They appear to have been inspired by the russian gymnast sable Tatyana Tushenko's floor routine from the 1980 animation Animalympics. The earliest silkie illustrations feature the characters Brandy Johnson, Sherry King, and Gene as gymnasts. Other early silkie characters include Danube, Ebony and Majenta Silk.
Some of Sample's subsequent silkie characters were "personal silkies" representing real people. Examples include Brian "Slick" Costigan (Ken Sample), Mocha Davison (Deal Whitley), and Sylvester Thomas (Mark Merlino).
The 1990s saw several "free-range" personal silkies being created as characters on furry MUDs. Such characters include Blaze, Nahtahnie Chambers, Rayce, Mikey and Stymnus Johnson on FurryMUCK; and Bridget Johnson and Syvel on Sociopolitical Ramifications and Tapestries MUCK.